Italian Meringue Recipe

Italian meringue is sturdy stuff. It holds up well when exposed to moisture as well as heat, which makes it great for baked Alaska. To make Italian meringue you’ll need:

For the egg whites

5 ounces (5) egg whites at room temperature
pinch salt
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1.75 ounces (1/4 cup) sugar

For the syrup

4 ounces (1/2 cup) water
7 ounces (1 cup) sugar

Place the egg whites in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the whip. Whip the eggs on medium speed until they’re frothy, then add salt and cream of tartar. Keep whipping to the soft peak stage. Add the 1/4 cup sugar in a steady stream and whip to just shy of stiff peaks. Turn off the machine and attend to the syrup.

Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan and bring to to a boil over medium-high heat and let it cook to 238 degrees Fahrenheit.

Now then, carefully pour some of the syrup into the whites and immediately turn the mixer up to high and whip for five seconds. Turn the machine off, add more syrup, whip again and so on until all the syrup has been incorporated and the meringue is whipped to stiff peaks. Use immediately.

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32 Responses to Italian Meringue Recipe

  1. Rebecca says:

    So Joe — about the cream of tartar. I’m one of those folks who doesn’t have a stainless steel whip attachment for my stand mixer. It’s not even plastic or coated. It’s maybe burnished steel?

    Regardless – whenever I use cream of tartar I get a distinctly metallic taste in my meringue (I think you might have touched on this in a previous post). I’ve stopped using it all together. But would it be better to substitute it with something that won’t give the metallic taste?

    • joepastry says:

      Interesting…and odd. Evidently there’s an acid reaction of some kind happening there. That rules out the three main additives people use to protect against over-whipping: tartaric acid, lemon juice and vinegar. The only thing left is copper, which should do the trick, actually. Copper ions can be had in the form of copper dietary supplements, available at health food stores. Use them in the same proportion you would cream of tartar. Let me know if that does the trick!

      - Joe

  2. Ed says:

    Why do we start whipping the egg whites before we start the syrup. If you start the syrup first, then start whipping the egg whites when the syrup reaches 230 F by the time the syrup is at the right temp the eggs are ready for it.

    Also, some chefs do the stop and start method of adding the sugar syrup and others of us add it in one continuous stream down the side of the bowl, any thoughts?

    • joepastry says:

      Hey Ed! You can indeed heat the syrup and whip the whites at the same time. The syrup takes about ten minutes, which as you point out gives you a fair amount of time to get whites whipped. I made the steps sequential for those folks who may not be comfortable cooking and whipping at the same time. To that end I shifted some of the sugar from the syrup step to the egg white step so the foam will hold up better while the syrup is being heated. It’s just a lower pressure method, is all.

      As for adding the syrup to the foam, again I think it can be a challenge pouring the syrup in a perfect stream down the side of the bowl. It’s hard to do it slowly, and if you hit the whip the syrup splatters outward onto the sides of the bowl where it cools instantly and is wasted. The stop-start method is a bit of a pain, but it’s got a higher margin for error. That’s my thinking anyway!

      Cheerio,

      - Joe

  3. Pat says:

    Hey Joe:
    Another question about the cream of tartar. If you’re whipping the whites to nearly stiff peaks, and the meringue is used immediately, is the cream of tartar needed?
    Thanks!

    • joepastry says:

      Hey Pat! The main use for cream of tartar is as a “margin-of-error enhancer” to help prevent over-whipping of the whites. So in my opinion it is still needed. However if you’re careful you can probably get away without it. Thanks for the question!

  4. Hi Joe. Just wondering if the person who objects to cream of tartar could sub lemon juice. It introduces acid, just like cream of tartar, and with all the moisture added with the sugar syrup, the little bit extra with a teaspoon of lemon juice wouldn’t matter. I’ve used the lemon juice in Italian meringue when I was out of cream of tartar, and it worked fine. As you say, it’s even possible to make the meringue without the “margin of error” acid if you’re careful though a newbie might not pull it off….

    • joepastry says:

      Indeed so, Nancy! And you’re absolutely right, there are a couple of kitchen acids that can be employed. Lemon juice is the best choice. Vinegar would also work, but probably not as nice in a meringue! ;)

      Thanks very much for the advice! – Joe

  5. malini says:

    I don’t have a stand mixer (gasp!) and my hand held one in ancient. So do you think it will stand the heat of the syrup or just explode?

    I really don’t want to try and find out :D

    • joepastry says:

      The hand one should work just fine…no explosions are in your future (I’m pretty sure).

  6. Liz says:

    Sounds delicious. I lived in Italy and a pizzeria down the street always had meringue for dessert.

    What would happen if the eggs were not room temp? Is that necessary so they can get to that frothy consistency?

    Thanks
    Liz-CoolProducts

    • joepastry says:

      Hi Liz! That’s exactly right…a warmer egg has a runnier white. That makes it easier to whip it up into a foam.

      Thanks for the email! – Joe

  7. Chris says:

    I want to make chocolate Meringue – can you tell me how to do that?

    • joepastry says:

      Hey Chris! Just prepare the meringue as usuall, then transfer it to a large bowl. Sift about a cup of cocoa powder over it, then gently fold it in until there are no more streaks. Done!

      - Joe

  8. Pat says:

    Hi there, can I make an Italian meringue ahead of time eg I’m making a cake for my daughter so I’m thinkIng of frosting the cake in the meringue the night before. Will it keep in the fridge?

    • joepastry says:

      Hey Pat!

      Meringues aren’t famous for their keeping ability, which is not to say they’re going top completely collapse if you hold them in the fridge. You’ll get some shrinkage as some of the bubbles pop, but it should still be presentable!

      - Joe

  9. george tuscano says:

    Hi

    joe can we use lemon juice instead of cream tarter.
    And one more thing in italian proper recipes they use lemon juice or not…..

    • joepastry says:

      Hi George! Yes, you can use an equal amount of lemon juice. As for what they use in Italy, I’m not sure. They make a lot of wine, so they probably have plenty of tartaric acid around! Thanks for the email!

      - Joe

  10. john nettleton says:

    Johnno here,

    I’ve just bought two litres of strawberry white chocolate ice cream. So far, I’ve softened it down and mixed in a swag of rasberries and re-frosen it. Then, I’ve rolled the whole lot in melted chocolate. I’m about to use Italian merangue to coat the whole lot. The question is, can I freeze the whole lot and bake it later or do I have bake now . I’ll bake it in a plate which will be imbedded in ice
    I’ve got a week to go before Christmas.

    • joepastry says:

      Hey John! So you’re making a sort of baked Alaska, correct? You can freeze it once you’ve put on the meringue, but only for about a day or so before the meringue will start to get rubbery. But that’ll give you at least a little breathing room! Best of luck with it, it sounds fantastic.

      - Joe

      • john nettleton says:

        Well, Christmas has passed and I thought that you might be interested in the results of my bombe that you were so kind to help me with. IT WAS BLOODY MARVELOUS! If anybody would be interested, I made some last minute changes. First, to recap. I softened 2 litres of strawb/white choc icecream and added a swag of frozen rasberries and refrozen in the original container. Next, I rolled the icecream in some melted dark chocolate. Here’s the sneaky part. I filled a shallow dish with water and floated a plate over it and froze it. When that was done I put the icecream in the saucer and coated it with Italian merangue and ovened the whole lot, You see, ovening it with a layer of ice under it saved the bottom from melting. I had another frozen plate ready to go so that when I pulled the bombe out of the oven I could just slide it off and re-freeze it. I plan to concentrate some orange juice with the peel of some orange skin and add it to a swag of caramalised sugar. I’ll add some of that to some vanilla icecream and roll that in chocolate to make another bombe. I wonder how that will turn out?
        Have a beaut New Year everyone!

        Johnno

  11. Grisel Martinez says:

    Can you please give me the recipe for whipped frosting for birthday cakes. Thank you so much

  12. Shannon says:

    Hi there,
    I was going to make a lemon meringue pie and told my
    Husband I needed to get cream of tarter. He said his mom
    Never used cream of tarter, just egg whites and sugar. I
    Explained cream of tarter helps firm the meringue. He said
    That’s the “easy” way out and if you are patient and continue
    To beat the eggs n sugar it’ll be just fine. I am offended, because
    He had never even heard of cream of tarter until that day so tell
    Me… Who’s right?

    • joepastry says:

      Hi Shannon!

      I don’t mean to cop out when I say that either way will work. Sugar does help stabilize an egg foam. Now me, I wouldn’t think of making a meringue without a little cream of tartar, because it provides an important buffer against over-whipping. It costs you nothing in terms of flavor and helps ensure you get the highest whip. So at the end of the day I’m with you, Shannon. Stick to your guns! ;)

      - Joe

  13. mrspacklecrisp says:

    You don’t need the tartar here. It won’t do anything because there’s no risk of the structure collapsing due to overwhipping. The sugar is melted. And like others have said, it’s kind of a cheat/crutch. Is it that hard to whip eggs?

  14. Hi Joe, I usually make a Swiss Buttercream icing for my cakes, in which the egg whites and all the sugar are combined and heated to 160 degrees F (I do this in my stainless steel mixing bowl over a pot of water on the stove a la a double boïler), then whipped into a meringue. Is there any significant difference in the resulting texture and uses of this method versus the Italian method of basically adding hot syrup to cook the already whipped egg whites? Maybe it’s because I burned myself making peanut brittle when I was a teenager, but I seem to have an irrational fear of super-heated sugar syrup so I’ve so far avoided making jelly, hard candy, etc, LOL!

    • joepastry says:

      Hi Charity!

      There isn’t enough of a difference to risk the recurrence of an old phobia, that’s for sure. Italian meringue buttercream is both lighter and a bit sturdier in the face of higher temperatures, though it doesn’t pipe quite as well as Swiss if that’s a concern. Swiss is my go-to buttercream, so I say: stand pat with what you know you like!

      Cheers,

      - Joe

  15. Krista says:

    Hi Joe,
    I know it’s the age-old question but I’m convinced there is a real answer out there… I see lemon meringue pies in cafes and patisseries that havent the slightest hint of weeping despite being hours old…how do they do it?? Ive tried all the hints online and none make a difference… Yet I see pies with perfectly held meringue sitting on shop shelves… There must be a secret??!
    Cheers!

    • joepastry says:

      Hi Krista!

      I remembered this comment when I woke up this morning…I had completely forgotten to reply. So sorry about that. My feeling is that most meringues in pastry cases have quite a lot of starch in them, often corn starch but wheat flour and even gelatin is sometimes used. The high proportion of stabilizing agent makes them look perfect, but they can be quite gummy as a result. I’ll take a home-made low starch meringue any day…even if it weeps a bit!

      Cheers,

      -Joe

      • Krista says:

        Thanks Joe! You know, just today I saw such a tart in a bakery and decided to try it…
        I couldn’t agree with you more- I’ll take a freshly made, unadulterated meringue weeping and all, over one of those things any day! The meringue tasted like how mock cream is to fresh cream- kind of fake. The texture was as you said- gummy, not silky and creamy. I can definitely cope with a bit of weeping rather than the half-eaten rubbish left in my fridge. (A good sign of a bad lemon meringue tart- there is some left, and you have no inclination to eat it! When they are bad, they are BAD!)

        Thanks!

        • joepastry says:

          Are they ever! And that’s a shame because lemon and key lime pies/tarts are just about my favorite things in the world!

          Have a great weekend!

          - Joe

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